It was a source of pride for Chandler Valley Christian. No one had beaten the Trojans on the field this season.
True, Valley Christian had to forfeit three games, but they had won those three on the field.
After Saturday’s 2A state championship game at Tempe McClintock High School, the Trojans can no longer say they’re unbeaten on the field. An inspired, talented Thatcher (11-3) team crushed Valley Christian’s chance for a repeat, beating the Trojans 42-20 for the Eagles’ first state title since 2001.
“Today was a little different on the field, but these kids are champions,” Valley Christian coach Bill Morgan said of his team, which was in its third consecutive 2A championship game.
Two big plays in the second half were the difference for the Eagles. The first was a 58-yard punt return from Denver Householder that pushed the Thatcher lead to 28-13. Valley Christian (9-4) cut the lead to 28-20 on a 6-yard fourth-and-goal pass from Rob Brown to Justin Lett on the first play of the fourth quarter.
But one minute later, Thatcher’s Heath Allred broke off a 64-yard touchdown run that took the air out of the Valley Christian side.
“That run broke our back,” Morgan said. “What a great running back. That kid runs with a lot of heart.”
Allred, a senior, had a dominating performance, rushing for 166 yards and two touchdowns to help the Eagles atone for a 57-27 loss to Valley Christian in the 2A semifinals last year.
“It means a lot because they beat us last year pretty bad and we came back and took it to them,” Allred said. “We were looking forward to it.”
Another Thatcher senior, Derek Romney, capped off his career with 69 yards rushing, two touchdowns and an interception. Romney suffered a torn ACL injury in last year’s meeting with Valley Christian.
“I had six months of extremely hard physical therapy, but for this, this is the greatest feeling in the world and no one will ever be able to take this away from us,” Romney said. “Right here, you saw a team that has peaked.”
Valley Christian could not maintain consistent offensive production. The first half was marred by two key Trojan turnovers. The first ended a Trojan drive at the Eagles’ 25, the second set up Thatcher for the go-ahead touchdown just before halftime.
Thatcher recovered a fumbled pitch on the Valley Christian 29 with 46 seconds in the first half. Two plays later, Jorge Lucero hit Chris Aaron with a 12-yard pass that put the Eagles up 14-7 going into intermission.
“You can’t make those kinds of mistakes with the ball, turning it over,” Morgan said. “But let’s credit Thatcher. They did a nice job today.”
Down 21-7 after Thatcher took the second-half kickoff and drove 67 yards for a touchdown, the Trojans looked like they were on track after a 6-play, 65 yard drive was capped by a 2-yard run by Brown.
But on their next drive with a chance to tie the game, Valley Christian couldn’t get a first down and the punt was returned for a TD by Householder.
Brown finished off his high school career with 83 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns. However, the Eagles were able to keep Brown, or any of the other Trojans, from breaking any big plays.